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Soudabeh Ardavan is from Tabriz, a former political prisoner now living in Sweden. She is in her early 40's. She spent eight years of her precious life in the Islamic regime's jail. She is also an artist who drew prison life while she was confined in a cell with other women.|
Through these images, drawn from the time she became a prisoner in 1981 until she was released in 1989, Soudabeh tells a story of those horrible days. While in prison, her mother had a stroke because she had thought Soudabeh was among the many executed prisoners; she could not bear the thought of it. She died at age 57, a year after Soudabeh was released.
Soudabeh Ardavan speaks of those days. She and fellow inmates were kept in a small cell made for three people, but at times, the cell was shared with as many as 40 prisoners. Sanitary conditions were very poor. There was no proper clothing, and prisoners were given little food and minimum access to the shower. As punishment, prisoners were denied the use of toilets.
Prisoners would sleep on the floor, leaving enough space for the injured who had been severely tortured by guards to get confessions. Soudabeh had not confessed. She was considered a "sar mozei" -- a term used for those who had resisted torture. Those who had repented were called "tavaabin".
She tells her tale, enough to make you shiver. It makes you wonder if it is possible in this day and age, for a human being to be treated with such cruelty only because they were young and outspoken.
She was a university student interested in politics, books and publishing. She was studying architecture and interior design at Tehran's Polytechnic Institute. It was during the Cultural Revolution when the wide-scale crackdown began. The ruling revolutionaries wanted to get rid of "corrupt elements".
She was charged with participating in demonstrations against the Islamic Republic. At first, she was detained, interrogated, and finally, blindfolded on the floor, and sentenced to two years in jail. There was no judge nor a jury or a lawyer. "Islamic justice" did not take more than a few minutes.
It was the most despicable time in the history of the Islamic regime. Interrogation, torture, execution were the order of the day. For the next 8 years, she would be transferred, from Evin to Ghessel Hessar prison, back and forth, from one unit to another, spending time in between in solitary.
She remembers the first time she entered a cell. She thought she had entered a girls school. The prisoners were all young girls, in their teens. Sometimes, there were older women, as old as one's grandmother. They had apparently aided the prisoners or were family members.
Her three famous prison mates were Bijan Jazani's mother; Maryam Taleghani, the daughter of Ayatollah Taleghani, and writer Sharnoush Parsipour.
She tried to write her story through the many pictures she drew. First she hid them for fear of punishment. Then she would get rid of them. Later, she would keep her artwork and somehow smuggle them out. Other prisoners would help her find paper and pencils. She drew her cell mates, guards, life in prison, and cell conditions.